About the Foreign Language Requirement

The graduate field of mathematics updated its foreign language requirement in May 2012. The following rules pertain to all doctoral students entering Fall 2012 or later. Transitional rules for earlier classes are explained at the bottom.

In many areas of mathematics, important work has been published and continues to be published in languages other than English. For this reason the field of mathematics requires that you pass a test of basic mathematical reading ability in one language other than English. The allowed languages are French, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese, regardless of whether any of these is your native tongue. However, to ensure maximal relevance to your research area, your choice of language must be approved by your thesis advisor (special committee chair); if he/she has no opinion you may make your own choice.

The test is not a prerequisite for the A-exam, but you must pass it before beginning your seventh semester of registration. You may take it as soon as you have chosen a thesis advisor. Your advisor will administer the test or refer you to an examiner within the graduate field of mathematics. Depending on the composition of the field membership, not all language options may be available at all times.

If you have good reading ability in the foreign language, your examiner may be willing to waive the test.

For record-keeping purposes, please notify Melissa Totman before taking the test. She can also help you find an examiner if your advisor does not know one.

Test Content

A minimal acceptable form of the test is to translate a section of an article or textbook into English with the use of a dictionary and without time limitation. Advisors who want to impose a more stringent test, such as an on-the-spot reading test, are free to do so.

As an alternative, with the agreement of the examiner, you may choose to write a summary in English of an entire research paper written in the foreign language. You select the paper in consultation with the examiner. The summary need not be a word-for-word translation, but should at least include a statement of the main results of the paper, along with context and proof ideas as appropriate.

Entering Class of Fall 2011 or Earlier

The same rules apply with the only difference that you must pass the test before graduation. However, postponing the test defeats the purpose of the requirement, and we urge you to take it around the time of your A-exam, or as soon as possible if you have already passed the A-exam.